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Royal choice

You can go beyond traditional kebabs at Peshawri's food festival


THE KAKORI kebab, according to one restaurateur, was invented for a toothless king. As he eagerly dipped into a plateful of them, he talked about how the king in question lived the vida loca for most of his life, and then gradually became old and toothless. However, this did not blunt his majesty's zest for the good life and good food in the least. So, he gave up hunting tigers and aimed for his chefs instead. They were ordered to make him a kebab that would melt in his mouth, so he wouldn't have to bother with chewing. And so... without too many creative breaks, the kakori kebab was born. Chola Sheraton's junior sous chef Siddharth Krishna's all-new kebab festival has provided him an opportunity to go beyond traditional food preferences. "We can't change the menu at Peshawri," he says, adding that the restaurant has a number of dedicated regulars who will not tolerate any fancy menu-tweaking or tofu kebab-type innovation. So the only time he can actually let his imagination run wild is when he has festivals. And, boy, has he let himself go on this one!

Instead of a traditional kakori, chef Siddharth has created a corn ki kakori, a fascinating blend of flavours and textures. One know-it-all foodie once announced that a good kakori should be light enough to be blown off your plate (a disconcerting thought if you are in a windy restaurant). This one just might. It's fine enough to literally melt in your mouth, leaving a celebration of flavours - sweet corn skewered with the kind of spiciness that leaves a tickle at the back of your throat.

An interesting thing about the festival is that the vegetarian kebabs actually manage to eclipse the non-vegetarian ones even though kebabs are traditionally meaty. The samarkand ke kebab, made of yam and cheese spiked with herbs, is... well... yammy. It's crisp outside and luscious inside, dusted with a piquant kebab masala.

There's also a robust mewe aur ankur ki tikki, a harmonious blend of sprouted beans and dry nuts with surprise bursts of warm raisins inside.

The highlight, however, was their sizzling bhunwa chote aloo, parboiled baby potatoes fried and tossed in a spicy masala of dill leaves and jeera amongst other things.

The non-vegetarian section, however, was somewhat ho-hum. The highlight was a kebab that looked like it was dressed up for a children's birthday party. Covered in bright capsicum confetti, the sheekh gilafi was succulent, though in a blandly smoky way. The rogini murgh was run-of-the mill, the best part about it being the sections blackened by the barbeque - by design or chance. The pudina jhinga was a tad too bland, letting the overly garrulous prawn do all the talking.

The breads are good - Peshawri staples, and they have a delicious qaliyan-e-paneeri, made of triangles of paneer cooked in silky cashew gravy, to dip them in.

The festival is on for lunch and dinner till July 4.

SHONALI MUTHALALY

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